Sales Analytics and How Big Data Can Drive Toward the Wrong Conclusion

Andris Zolner published an interesting article on Harvard Business Review.  He talks about using big data for the sales force. First off. Zoltner is brilliant, his work is brilliant, his stuff is well, brilliant.

Big Data Is One Thing--Understanding What It Means Is Quite Another Thing

His article discusses the use of big data and how its analytics helped change the course of selling for companies in different business sectors.  One point he made though is that one company found the better sales people had their field level managers spending more time with them in the field. He said, that these were the best-performing sales managers who were spending more time with their best sales people in the field. The correlation from the data, was that the worse-performing sales managers were spending less time with their sales people in the field.

The change that this company was going to make according to the company's executives was that the worst sales managers should spend more time in the field with their sales people.

The University Professor and The "A" Student Who Didn't Attend Class

I remember a story of a university professor who told his 30 students that class was not mandatory, but that if they wanted an "A" they should attend class every day because he was going to cover material that was not in the book. He said, there will be no quizzes, no mid-terms, just one big final. But he said, if you come to class, you should do very well on the final.

Everyone sat up and took notice. The next class, all 30 students showed up. The next class, however, only 29 students showed up.

The professor thought this was just an aberration, but for the next class only 29 students showed up again. The professor saw the familiar faces from the last class and began to wonder who it was that wasn't showing up. So he asked his teaching assistant (TA) to determine who it was who didn't show up, just in case.

The following class--only 29 students. The TA determined it was John Smith who was skipping classes. Well this went on until the last day of the class--the day of the finals.  All 30 students showed up. The professor saw the unfamiliar face and knew it had to be this John Smith fellow.

When John Smith came up to the front of the class to turn in his final--the professor just shook his head. He said, "You must be John Smith." The professor looked at the name on the test, saw that it was John Smith, and said, "I will save you time in having to wait. I will grade your test right now right here." And with that the professor started marking his test against the answers.

The professor went "Hmmmm....." and then went on some more. Obviously the professor was startled. He said, "This is impossible. You scored a 98 out of 100, and you didn't come to any of my classes."

The student replied, "Well on the first day of class, I thought I knew the subject, but I became confused. I could have made a 100 if I didn't come to that class."

The best don't need the help of those who are in positions of authority who don't know what they are doing. Bad sales managers do not want to be encouraged to go out in the filed to help their best sales people. You want to encourage bad sales managers to stay home and spend time with their families.

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